News You Can Use Digest - July 7, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

July 7, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 7, 2023


‘I Get My Butt Kicked Every 20 Minutes’: Life in a state legislature’s superminority

MSN – Liz Crampton (Politico) | Published: 6/29/2023

There are 29 supermajorities in state Legislatures controlled by either Democrats or Republicans, up from 21 in 2019. In addition, there are 51 House or Senate chambers where the minority party makes up fewer than one third of seats. The result is a shrinking minority voice drowned out by a dominant majority that can stomp out any sliver of opposition. While lawmakers said most day-to-day dealings between the parties tend to be peaceful, sometimes tensions between the supermajority and superminority can build to high-profile stunts fueled by pent-up hostility.

Judge Blocks U.S. Officials from Tech Contacts in First Amendment Case

MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 7/4/2023

A federal judge in Louisiana restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms about broad swaths of content online in an ongoing case that could have significant effects on the First Amendment. The injunction came in response to a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, who allege government officials went too far in their efforts to encourage social media companies to address posts they worried could contribute to vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic or upend elections.

House Republicans Scared to Lose Majority Push Back on Extreme Agenda

MSN – Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2023

The U.S. House’s focus on the far-right’s demands over the past month has irritated Republicans who represent swing districts or are worried an extreme legislative agenda will push voters away and hand the majority to Democrats in 2024. So they are learning to flex their procedural muscles, largely behind the scenes, to keep some proposals they see as most damaging off the House floor.

Investigation of Trump Documents Case Continues After His Indictment

Seattle Times – Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 6/29/2023

Weeks after Donald Trump was indicted on charges of illegally retaining national security records and obstructing the government’s efforts to reclaim them, a federal grand jury in Miami is still investigating aspects of the case. In recent days, the grand jury has issued subpoenas to a handful of people who are connected to the inquiry. While it remains unclear who received the subpoenas and the kind of information prosecutors were seeking to obtain, it is clear the grand jury has stayed active and investigators are digging even after an indictment was issued against Trump and a co-defendant, Walt Nauta.

From the States and Municipalities

Canada – Progress Vancouver Barred from 2026 Election Over Campaign Finance Violations

Global News – Canadian Press | Published: 7/4/2023

Elections BC banned political organizer Mark Marissen and other Progress Vancouver candidates from running in the next round of local elections after it deregistered their party for breaking campaign finance rules. The party’s disclosure reports revealed an “impermissible” $50,000 loan, improperly recorded contributions, donations from outside British Columbia, and contributions that exceeded legal limits, Elections BC said.

Alabama – What Are the ‘Pork’ Handouts at the Center of a Birmingham Corruption Case?

MSN – Hannah Denham and Joseph Bryant ( | Published: 7/5/2023

Elected officials pose with giant checks, shake hands with constituents, and smile for the cameras as they hand out public money to schools, police departments, and nonprofits in Birmingham and Jefferson County. Now the source of those grants has come under scrutiny after a federal court case a kickback scheme involving two Alabama Lawmakers, a legislative aide, and a youth baseball league, which prosecutors say resulted in the misuse of thousands of public dollars spent on personal credit card bills and a mortgage instead of its intended community service.

Alaska – Complaint Alleges Opponents of Alaska’s Ranked Choice Voting Formed Church to Skirt Disclosure Laws

Anchorage Daily News – Iris Samuels | Published: 7/6/2023

The group that championed Alaska’s ranked-choice voting reform filed a complaint against several individuals and entities that are leading an effort to repeal the new election laws, alleging they violated multiple campaign finance rules and obscured the source of their funding in the process. The complaint alleges opponents of ranked-choice voting founded a church called the Ranked Choice Education Association that could have allowed donors to gain tax advantages for their contributions while skirting disclosure requirements.

Arizona – Trump Pressured Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to Overturn 2020 Election

MSN – Leigh Ann Caldwell, Josh Dawsey, and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2023

In a phone call in late 2020, then-President Trump tried to pressure Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to overturn the state’s presidential election results, saying if enough fraudulent votes could be found it would overcome Trump’s narrow loss in the state. Trump also repeatedly asked former Vice President Mike Pence to call Ducey and prod him to find the evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims of fraud. Pence called Ducey several times to discuss the election, they said, though he did not follow Trump’s directions to pressure the governor.

California – Should Facebook and Google Pay Local News Outlets for Their Content? AB 886 Would Require It

MSN – Andrew Sheeler (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 7/5/2023

If supporters of Assembly Bill 886 – the California Journalism Preservation Act – prevail, Google and Meta will have to compensate local news publishers for linking to or displaying their work, paying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to news outlets. California is on the cutting edge of a larger movement to hold social media companies financially accountable for the news they use.

Connecticut – CT Bans Utilities from Billing Customers for Lobbying Efforts

Connecticut Mirror – Akielly Hu (Grist) | Published: 7/4/2023

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill into law that prohibits the state’s investor-owned utilities from charging customers for lobbying expenses and other efforts to sway political outcomes. The law bans utilities from charging customers for trade association dues, donations to political advocacy nonprofits that seek to influence elections, public relations expenses, and fees for consultants and lawyers hired by utilities to argue for rate increases.

Florida – Federal Judge Halts New Florida Law He Calls ‘Latest Assault’ on Voting

MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 7/3/2023

U.S. Chief District Court Judge Mark Walker blocked a new election law pushed by Republicans that puts restrictions on voter registration groups, calling it “Florida’s latest assault on the right to vote.” Walker granted a preliminary injunction against the law days after it went into effect. Walker has repeatedly ruled against the state in past legal challenges to election measures put in place by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Florida – Mayor Francis Suarez Worked to Draft New Law with Developer Who Later Paid Him $170K

MSN – Joey Flechas, Sarah Blaskey, and Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/30/2023

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and his city staff joined forces with developer Rishi Kapoor to draft a new city law the developer saw as vital for his $70 million real estate project in Coconut Grove Kapoor later paid Suarez at least $170,000 for consulting for the developer in regular $10,000 increments dating back to at least 2021. The mayor’s financial deal with the developer is currently under federal investigation. Newly obtained emails reveal how the relationship between Kapoor and the mayor’s office began years before the aide made a call to the city’s zoning director, who ultimately overrode a code requirement.

Georgia – Attorney Who Challenged Trump’s 2020 Loss Gives Up Law License as States Weigh Disciplining Him

Yahoo News – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 7/5/2023

Attorney Lin Wood, who filed legal challenges seeking to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, is relinquishing his law license, electing to retire from practicing rather than face possible disbarment. Multiple states have weighed disciplining him for pushing false claims he defeated Joe Biden. Wood asked officials in his home state of Georgia to “retire” his law license in light of “disciplinary proceedings pending against me.”

Indiana – Lax Ethics Rules Could Create Conflicts of Interest for Lawmakers

Indiana Environmental Reporter – Sade Ajishegiri, Sophie Kaelble, Nic Napier, Lily Staatz, Jasmine Wright, and Lizzie Wright (Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism) | Published: 6/30/2023

Indiana Lawmakers must file statements of economic interest at the start of each legislative session. Their employers, businesses they own or have stakes in, lobbyists they have relationships with, and government agencies they are affiliated with are all disclosed in the filings. Despite the legal requirement for disclosure, little in state law precludes legislators from pushing bills tied to their economic interests.

Michigan – Redistricting Commission Member’s New Job Raises Ethics Questions

WKAR – Rick Pluta | Published: 7/2/2023

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission ended its map drawing more than a year ago. But member Anthony Eid’s new leadership role within an advocacy group is raising questions about a possible conflict-of-interest. Michigan Voices announced Eid would be taking over as the group’s deputy director. The Detroit News noted text on the Michigan Voices website bragging about its work when it came to redistricting.

Minnesota – Minnesota Chamber Sues Over Campaign Disclosure Law

Minnesota Public Radio – Dana Ferguson | Published: 7/3/2023

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is suing over a new law set to take effect next year, alleging it would chill businesses’ free speech if allowed to take effect. The organization took issue with provisions in a broader election law that bar companies with foreign influenced ownership from making political contributions. Under the law, companies would face legal penalties if they make independent expenditures or contribute to ballot question committees and have foreign ownership thresholds that meet or exceed state limits.

Mississippi – Secretary of State’s Office Disables Online Campaign Finance Reporting Portal

Magnolia Tribune – Sarah Ulmer | Published: 7/3/2023

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office announced the online campaign finance filing system is being disabled due to concerns over reliability. The next deadline to file campaign finance reports is July 10. Candidates and political committees must now file via email, mail, or fax, or in person.

Missouri – Former Missouri Legislators Keep Control of Leftover Campaign Funds

Missouri Independent – Erik Galicia | Published: 6/30/2023

Despite voters’ attempts to tighten Missouri’s campaign finance laws, many former state legislators keep control of tens of thousands of campaign dollars without running for public office again. A review of hundreds of former lawmakers’ campaign finance reports shows some of them drew from their candidate committees to spend on campaigns that never happened. They bought computers, reimbursed themselves and their relatives without specifying the expenses, and paid rent for their offices.

Nevada – Nevada Democrats Want to See List of Governor’s ‘Dark-Money’ Inaugural Donors

Las Vegas Sun – Casey Harrison | Published: 7/2/2023

The Nevada Democratic Party is requesting records from Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office after he vetoed a bill that would have required the disclosure of donors from the nonprofit that organized his post-election inauguration events. Party officials claim Lombardo’s camp established the nonprofit to prevent disclosing who contributed to the fund and how much. If the fund was established as part of a PAC, donors would be disclosed.

Nevada – How A’s Stadium Advocates Avoided Registering as Lobbyists

Nevada Current – Dana Gentry | Published: 7/6/2023

Consultant Jeremy Aguero and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s Steve Hill advocated for $380 million in public funding for a new stadium without registering as lobbyists for the Oakland A’s. The team signed a commitment to move to Las Vegas and play in the stadium for 30 years. Among the many effects of COVID-19 was the inability of lobbyists to register for two special sessions in 2020 and the beginning of the regular session in 2021 when the legislative building was closed to the public.

New Mexico – Ex-Director of Exploited Kirtland-Based Program Sentenced to Pay $1.2M in Restitution in Fraud Case

Albuquerque Journal – Colleen Heild | Published: 6/28/2023

Milton Boutte, who is supposed to start serving his prison term later this summer, asked to remain free during his appeal of the conviction to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Boutte was described as the “architect” of a scheme that siphoned money from sole source federal contracts to benefit the Big Crow Program Office and its lobbyists. Three others indicted in the case have pleaded guilty.

New York – In New York Senate, Lawmakers Change Their Votes, Sometimes Days Later

Buffalo News – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/4/2023

During its final legislative session day this year on June 9, the state Senate voted to pass a bill allowing New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to enter a new gaming compact with the Seneca Nation. Later that day, word leaked that the Hochul administration’s deal with the Nation included allowing a secretly negotiated new casino in the Rochester area. As that information spread, opposition quickly emerged from Rochester lawmakers. So, the results of the already-cast vote were altered.

Ohio – Republican Lobbyist Matt Borges Sentenced to 5 Years Prison for Role in Bribery Scandal

MSN – Adam Ferrise (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/30/2023

Former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Matt Borges was sentenced to five years in prison in connection with the Larry Householder-led political corruption scandal that engulfed state politics for years. Borges worked as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions and alongside Householder, the former House speaker who is now a federal prisoner, to scuttle opposition to a law that gave FirstEnergy a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants owned by a subsidiary of the utility in exchange for $60 million in bribes.

Ohio – Why Haven’t Ohio Lawmakers Passed Any Ethics Reforms Since Larry Householder’s Arrest?

MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/1/2023

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced to twenty years in prison for accepting more than $60 million in bribes from utility company FirstEnergy, then hiding it through a web of groups to secure the passage of energy-related law, as well as help himself. As a judge read Householder’s sentence, “dark money” groups continued to operate in Ohio without any more restrictions or transparency rules than when Householder accepted the bribe money. Lawmakers and lobbyists do not have to disclose anything more than what Householder and his co-defendants had to. There is little sign that lawmakers will reform the ethics law.

Ohio – Abortion Rights Likely Headed for Showdown in Ohio This Fall

MSN – Madison Fernandez (Politico) | Published: 7/5/2023

Ohio is poised to become the latest battleground over abortion after advocates submitted more than enough signatures to get an abortion rights initiative on the ballot this fall. A coalition submitted more than 700,000 signatures for a ballot measure that would codify the right to an abortion in the state constitution. The submission sets up a crucial test of the potency of abortion as a political issue ahead of 2024, with vulnerable Democrats in the House and Senate attempting to cling to their seats in an increasingly red state.

Texas – Ethics Review Commission OKs Pandemic-Era Changes to Lobbying Ordinance

Austin Monitor – Nina Hernandez | Published: 7/5/2023

The Ethics Review Commission voted to recommend changes to Austin’s lobbying rules. The rules ensure phone calls and video conferences are properly recorded as appearances before a city official. City Auditor Corrie Stokes said her office found the city does not currently have any way of capturing or logging virtual meetings. Since the pandemic, many meetings between lobbyists, city council members, and other city employees have been virtual. “So, the first provision will show we’re just adding that, yes, if you have a meeting virtually, it still counts as a meeting,” Stokes said.

Virginia – Virginia Sheriff, 3 Businessmen, Indicted on Federal Bribery Charges

MSN – Denise Lavoie (Associated Press) | Published: 6/30/2023

Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins was indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly handing out auxiliary deputy sheriff’s appointments in exchange for cash bribes and large donations to his reelection campaign. First elected sheriff in 2011, Jenkins is accused of soliciting and accepting bribes totaling at least $72,500 from the three indicted businesspeople and at least five others, including two FBI undercover agents during his 2019 reelection campaign.

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